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BassDrumBone: The Long Road

Dan McClenaghan By

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BassDrumBone has been in the business of making bold, muscular music for forty years, starting their unusual instrumental collaboration in 1977, and releasing their first album, Ohaspe on Auricle Records, in 1979. Trombonist Ray Anderson, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Gerry Hemingway employ a free form, powerhouse approach—there's not much pussyfooting going on with this instrumentation, in these energized hands. And with The Long Road the group has made its expansive and definitive statement, on two discs. And bring in the guests: pianist Jason Moran and saxophonist legend Joe Lovano.

The trio members, individually, have collaborated with the likes of Dewey Redman, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Sam Rivers: a crowd that gives a good idea of the road that BassDrumBone has traveled over it's four decades, and nine previous recordings. The relative Ornette Coleman-eque simplicity of the trio—without the chording instrument—is one of its in-your-face charms, and when they bring in Jason Moran—a flexible sideman if ever there was one—and the spaciousness of the trio recedes, giving way lush harmonic undercurrents and peculiar and beguiling piano soloing. Then they bring in Joe Lovano—who stays with the tenor sax here. "Blue Ray," with Lovano, sounds like a late fifties Mingus ramble, the tenor sax weaving throaty growls around Anderson's talking trombone.

"Different Cities," penned by drummer Hemingway, is just the trio, on an inexorable, ruminative trudge that slips into slither through the city streets. "Cherry Pickin," with Lovano, begins with a two horn power walk, before the saxophonist involves himself in a circuitous solo, a loopy journey through the orchard looking for the ripest fruits, before trombonist Anderson follows him and points out, stentorian style, the best of the crop. Then the horns squabble, in the best possible way.

BassDrumBone closes the set with a pair of extended live cuts that explore freer territory, sounding loose, reveling in the sounds they are creating, a fitting close to their energized music-making.

Track Listing:
CD 1:
Oh Yeah; Bungle Low; Blue Ray; Kemp; Why Not?; Quompot; Tone L; At Another Time.
CD 2:
Bluish; Different Cities; Cherry Pickin; The Line Up; Land's End.

Personnel: Mark Helias: bass; Gerry Hemingway: drums; Ray Anderson: trombone. Guests: Jason Moran: piano (CD 1, tracks 2, 5 ,7); Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone (CD 1, track 3; CD 2 tracks 1, 3).

Title: The Long Road | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Auricle Records


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